On Hiring

Few things are as exciting as the opportunity to hire someone new onto your team. Few things are as stressful as when you and your team must do extra work to account for the open position. Here are some of my favorite tips for managers to ensure they find the best person for the job.

Hiring is Your #1 Priority

Hiring is your #1 priority. When my managers had an open position, this was my mantra. I repeated it to them regularly because they tended to forget without that repetition. A manager is often overworked with one or more open positions, filling the gaps. Paradoxically, they often fail to recognize that finding someone to fill that open position is the only way to end this cycle.

My most straightforward rule to reinforce this is to provide a 24-hour turnaround time for any hiring-related request. Your recruiter sent you resumes to review? Get them reviewed within 24 hours. Do you have a request to schedule an interview? Get it scheduled within 24 hours. There is much tactical back-and-forth when you are hiring. If you want to land that rockstar candidate, you must move quickly. Making responding a priority can shave weeks off your hiring cycle and be the difference between hiring someone good and someone great.

Support Your Local Recruiter

If you work for a company of sufficient size, you will likely have a recruiter you are paired with whose day job is to source candidates for you, manage the recruitment process, and ensure you find someone incredible.

When you are hiring, your recruiter is your best friend.

Now is the time to leverage all those relationship-building skills you’ve been refining. Help your recruiter help you. 

I set a weekly checkpoint with my recruiter to ensure we collaborated effectively, discussed the flow of candidates, and overcame any blockers. Twenty-five minutes should be enough, but get this scheduled and ensure it happens each week. When you prioritize your recruiter, they will do the same for you.

Because my calendar was generally packed, I also reserved dedicated time each week for the recruiter. These were blocks for interviews, and the recruiter had permission to schedule interviews in those time blocks without checking with me. This significantly reduced the cycle time in the hiring process.

Get Crystal-Clear About Your Requirements

You may be fortunate enough to work for a company with a very mature hiring process. Your recruiter may have a well-crafted job description ready, which only needs minor adjustments. If you’re hiring for a role you hire regularly, they may even have a backlog of potential candidates. Or, you may work for a startup that doesn’t even have a recruiter. You’re looking for a “purple unicorn,” as we like to say, and you aren’t even sure what you’re looking for. 

Gather any materials that can support the process. Has anyone hired a role similar to yours in the past year? If so, get their job description and requirements. Do you have someone who is a top performer today doing a similar role? Use them as a model to articulate what you are looking for. Are other companies hiring something similar? Do a job search and look at other listings to see what ideas they can generate.

Remember that anything you list as a requirement should be weeding out unqualified candidates. So craft this section wisely. If you list a master’s degree as a requirement when you would be happy with a great candidate who only has a bachelor’s degree, you just filtered some potential superstars out. Even if they have the courage to apply, your recruiter may weed them out on your behalf based on that criteria.

Try to limit the obvious table-stakes requirements that don’t add value. If you are hiring a salesperson, saying they need to be a great communicator is probably redundant. 

When your job posting is finalized, read it from an applicant’s perspective. Is this drawing in the candidates you are searching for and weeding out the ones you know won’t be a fit?

Leverage Your Interview Team

You are likely enlisting an additional 2-5 people to interview qualified candidates in addition to yourself. This is a significant investment of their time. Respect that time, and make the most of it. If you don’t guide the interview team, they will likely ask many of the same questions, and you won’t get a comprehensive perspective.

Choose your interview team based on the requirements for the job, where each member focuses on a subset of the requirements. Make this transparent to the team. Susan will focus on technical aptitude. Joe will focus on communication and executive presence. Raja will focus on relationship skills.

Give each interviewer guidance about the areas they should focus on, and give them specific criteria to assess each candidate. Which brings me to my final point.

Quantify Your Assessments

One of the most common pitfalls when interviewing candidates is assuming you’ll be able to remember each one when you are ready to make a decision. When you talk to enough candidates, people start to run together – especially if you are overworked due to the open position.

Before your first interview, build your decision matrix to capture the job requirements that matter. This will reinforce the criteria that matter and the relative importance of each. Share this matrix with each interview team member, and let them know which rows of the matrix you expect them to score.

At the end of each interview, take five minutes to rate the candidate on each criterion. Do this while it is fresh in your mind. Even waiting a day can affect your impressions. When I do this, I often need to go back and recalibrate my ratings for prior candidates. Ivan was a five out of five on cloud strategy when I talked to him until I met Meghan, who raised the bar. Ivan became a four, and she set the new standard for a five.

Be a Professional Closer

As you close out the hiring process, make sure you are actively engaged to help land your selected candidate and ensure a smooth onboarding process. Once your recruiter has extended an offer, follow up with your own congratulatory note, and offer to answer any outstanding questions they may have.

Also, extend the same level of service to the other candidates. Be sure to close out any open communication loops with the other candidates. Remember that you are representing your company and its brand. Closing out the process gracefully and professionally will reflect well on you and the company. Failing to follow up will have the opposite effect. You may want to hire this person for another opportunity in the future. Even if you don’t, you want every candidate to speak highly of their experience.

Putting It Into Practice

Here’s a quick summary of strategies to hire superstars:

  • Remember that hiring is an opportunity to strengthen your team. Be grateful for the opportunity.
  • Make hiring your #1 priority.
  • Complete all hiring requests within 24 hours.
  • Build a strong relationship with your recruiter.
  • Set a weekly checkpoint with your recruiter.
  • Block times on your calendar reserved for your recruiter to schedule interviews.
  • Get crystal-clear about your job requirements.
  • Build a diverse interview team based on the requirements.
  • Quantify your assessments.
  • Engage with your chosen candidate once an offer is extended.
  • Ensure communication loops are closed out professionally with all other candidates.

Schedule time with Josh.

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